Although the story offers no real surprises, the author’s amusing first-person account and eye for detail keep the narrative...

CONDITIONS OF LOVE

Sarah’s hard-drinking, charismatic father has been dead for close to a year when this aptly titled novel from Pennebaker (Don’t Think Twice, 1996, etc.) opens.

A social nonentity in her ritzy school, Sarah and her earnest best friend, Ellie, spend their afternoons writing letters to the governor, begging him to spare death-row inmates. Sarah, still coming to terms with her grief, has recently grown weary of serious issues and dreary causes; moreover, she’s tired of Ellie’s sad-sack personality and her self- absorbed, dysfunctional family. Sarah wants to grow up, figure out how to get Ben to like her the way she likes him, and have some fun for a change. In the course of this intelligent, touching novel, she does just that, guiltily jettisoning Ellie for a new best friend, and reaching out to her crush. More significantly, she forges a new understanding with her mother, and discovers that the love she felt for her father was real even though he wasn’t the man she thought he was.

Although the story offers no real surprises, the author’s amusing first-person account and eye for detail keep the narrative consistently engaging; setting Pennebaker’s novel apart from the pack is the very specific behaviors and warty humanness of the adroitly drawn characters. (Fiction. 11-14)

Pub Date: May 1, 1999

ISBN: 0-8050-6104-5

Page Count: 259

Publisher: Henry Holt

Review Posted Online: May 20, 2010

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Feb. 15, 1999

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The wish-fulfilling title and sun-washed, catalog-beautiful teens on the cover will be enticing for girls looking for a...

THE SUMMER I TURNED PRETTY

Han’s leisurely paced, somewhat somber narrative revisits several beach-house summers in flashback through the eyes of now 15-year-old Isabel, known to all as Belly. 

Belly measures her growing self by these summers and by her lifelong relationship with the older boys, her brother and her mother’s best friend’s two sons. Belly’s dawning awareness of her sexuality and that of the boys is a strong theme, as is the sense of summer as a separate and reflective time and place: Readers get glimpses of kisses on the beach, her best friend’s flirtations during one summer’s visit, a first date. In the background the two mothers renew their friendship each year, and Lauren, Belly’s mother, provides support for her friend—if not, unfortunately, for the children—in Susannah’s losing battle with breast cancer. Besides the mostly off-stage issue of a parent’s severe illness there’s not much here to challenge most readers—driving, beer-drinking, divorce, a moment of surprise at the mothers smoking medicinal pot together. 

The wish-fulfilling title and sun-washed, catalog-beautiful teens on the cover will be enticing for girls looking for a diversion. (Fiction. 12-14)

Pub Date: May 5, 2009

ISBN: 978-1-4169-6823-8

Page Count: 288

Publisher: Simon & Schuster

Review Posted Online: May 20, 2010

Kirkus Reviews Issue: April 15, 2009

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WHAT THE MOON SAW

When Clara Luna, 14, visits rural Mexico for the summer to visit the paternal grandparents she has never met, she cannot know her trip will involve an emotional and spiritual journey into her family’s past and a deep connection to a rich heritage of which she was barely aware. Long estranged from his parents, Clara’s father had entered the U.S. illegally years before, subsequently becoming a successful business owner who never spoke about what he left behind. Clara’s journey into her grandmother’s history (told in alternating chapters with Clara’s own first-person narrative) and her discovery that she, like her grandmother and ancestors, has a gift for healing, awakens her to the simple, mystical joys of a rural lifestyle she comes to love and wholly embrace. Painfully aware of not fitting into suburban teen life in her native Maryland, Clara awakens to feeling alive in Mexico and realizes a sweet first love with Pedro, a charming goat herder. Beautifully written, this is filled with evocative language that is rich in imagery and nuance and speaks to the connections that bind us all. Add a thrilling adventure and all the makings of an entrancing read are here. (glossaries) (Fiction. 12-14)

Pub Date: Sept. 12, 2006

ISBN: 0-385-73343-7

Page Count: 272

Publisher: Delacorte

Review Posted Online: May 20, 2010

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Sept. 1, 2006

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